Getting into the spirit of Halloween…

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Here we are, All Hallow’s eve,

Ripped shirt and blood upon my sleeve.

Bruises dusted upon my cheek,

Mouth so swollen I can barely speak.

Kids approve. Cool costume mister,

Is he serious, parents whisper.

Help, I say, he’s after me,

Call the cops or ambulance, I plea.

Oh, how they chuckle as they walk off,

Feasting kids, like pigs in a trough.

Disheartened, I wander the streets at night,

What an unfortunate time to get into a fight.

NaNoWriMo…Again

Up and running! My username is CaterinaRichmond64, feel free to add.

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Title: For the best

Brief Synopsis: Set in a Dysoptian Britain, immigration has gotten out of control so the government have imposed a one policy inspired by China. Babies are micro-chipped at birth and there is an authority who invade homes and enforce this law. The protagonist, Frederic Carter, is one of these officials and is put in a difficult situation when birth control fails. With a wife refusing to have an abortion, cases of infanticide and child-trafficking, his options are limited and time is running out to make a united decision. Aware of the new extremities the government are introducing such as kidnapping and forced abortions, Fred becomes desperate, proposing unthinkable solutions which unsurprisingly causes a rift between him and his wife. They find a solution they both agree with but when nature uproots this so close to the birth, Fred does something unimaginable which he feels is best for his family.

I’m crying in a corner excited!

NaNoWriMo

So it’s one thing being unprepared for NaNoWriMo and it’s another thing when your account doesn’t physically work =\

Miffed much.

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My idea finally came to me last night accompanied by a ripple of excitement. It incorporates a few interests/potential ideas I’ve had in the past but have never actually worked on.

Using today to explore the characters and plan the chapters, although I must admit I’m not one to write in chapter order. I kind of write the one I can envision the most and work the others around the rest.

I’m nervous about plumping up the story with other minor plots – Do you usually plan the little details or make them up as you go?

Shamisen

 

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The Japanese culture is one of etiquette and tradition and even their instruments reflect this. A shamisen is a three stringed instrument which resembles a banjo or perhaps a guitar. It is played by plucking, using a fan shaped plectrum called a bachi. Despite consisting of only three strings, the sound of the shamisen is very distinct and can be manipulated in a variety of ways.

Traditionally, the shamisen is constructed of high value materials such as silk and ivory however there are cheaper and more durable versions, usually used by practising students. The shamisen is comprised of two main parts which can be disassembled for convenience; the body and the neck. The frame is usually carved out of mulberry or sandalwood. The neck of the shamisen is fretless and has three pegs at the end used to tighten the strings. The strings would be made using silk, or sometimes nylon, and would be pulled across the base of the shamisen. The body resembles a drum and is covered with taut hide. For professional players, this is usually cat skin and some of the most highly regarded shamisen still feature the cat’s nipples.

The shamisen is derived from a Chinese instrument called the sanchian in the 16th century. Since reaching Japan, the shamisen has become a characteristic feature of Kabuki; the Japanese theatre. It can be played solo or as part of an ensemble.  Shamisens are also often associated with geisha as maikos take lessons in learning the shamisen shape their future as geisha. They often play the shamisen at teahouses to entertain the guests. Memoirs of a geisha (a film and novel) exemplify the importance of learning the shamisen and even show the lead character performing Kabuki where the shamisen is used as an accompaniment to a dance performance.

The shamisen has a very unique sound and could be likened to a whiney twang. The piercing notes linger by the amplification of the drum body and this gives the instrument a melancholic tone. When plucked slowly, the shamisen produces quite an eerie yet calming sound with a mysterious implication. However, when tempo and volume are increased, the shamisen can create a lively and upbeat atmosphere which emanates a slight urgency.

Traditional shamisen playing adhere to very strict rules about the construction and composition of shamisen music. However,   Tsugaru-jamisen is a genre of shamisen music developed in northern Japan which has been growing in repertoire. The rules are much more relaxed with this genre and has allowed for variation in shamisen playing. For example, the strings of the instrument tend to be thicker, the components are made out of acrylic materials and even an electric tsugaru-jamisen has been developed. This style of playing has a more percussive quality, created by the plectrum striking the body after each stroke.

In 1999, the shamisen was revolutionised by The Yoshida Brothers who beautifully demonstrate the variation in energy which a shamisen can have. Playing tsugaru-jamisen, they incorporate elements of jazz and rock and use other instruments such as drums and synthesizers to enhance the shamisen. They became extremely popular, reaching American ears and their music was even used to advertise the Nintendo Wii.

The shamisen is an instrument which radiates delicacy and reform. With a single note, the mind inadvertently delves into the realm of Japanese culture. An instrument which is able to do this is a powerful one and this essence must be retained. Although modernists have updated the perception of shamisen playing, the unique sound still resonates, reminding listeners of the underlying history and culture. If anything, the updating of shamisen playing has reminded the modern world of this pure instrument and has allowed it to enter the market, therefore re-entering minds.

Dave Eggers: A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius

“Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this.” – Dave Eggers

 

I have been compelled to read this by many over the years and I can finally say I have. I’ve tried before but have ended up setting it down after the first few chapters but I don’t mean this to be any reflection on the book itself, merely my own interest at the time.

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It’s a memoir. After losing both of his parents to cancer in the space of a month, Eggers is forced to deal with this alongside the new and daunting aspect of being the guardian for his 7 year old brother, Toph.

One concept I really enjoy about this book is that it is essentially about some twenty year olds who don’t seem to have much going on. Apart from his parent’s death and raising his brother, nothing really stands out for me, which at times can make it drag a little. However, I don’t know if this is my own ignorance to genius or just one of those things. For example, Eggers starts his own magazine and interviews for a MTV show – I find myself inadvertently skipping past these chapters not finding them particularly interesting. I digress; back to my original point I enjoy the fact that Eggers has made a novel out of this. Imagine thinking this idea up yourself. His parents’ die of cancer, he looks after brother…then what? That is essentially what it is but I like this – It gives me reassurance that you can write the ordinary.

The most engaging aspect of the novel is his relationship with his little brother, Toph. As guardian, he is weighted with all these expectations and pressures, some of which he completely ignores (like getting his brother to school on time). We see points of him attempting to be a better guardian and his newfound authority is not taken seriously by Toph. There are also snippets of extreme paranoia by Eggers when he leaves Toph with a babysitter involving murder and paedophilia which you can sympathise with but also laugh about.

The final thing I enjoy about this book is the ending where he finally addresses the feelings towards his dead mother, using internal debates to grab our attention. I love the anger, the inappropriate comments and throwing of the ashes (which fall on his jacket). These elements are again easy to sympathise with while being realistically and refreshingly awkward. You throw ash in the wind, it will blow back on you but the world is often too scared to address the awkwardness of life, which is what he does with the cancer.

I personally feel this book is overrated but it does have its merits. It is this mix of realistic awkwardness and the relationship with Top which make this an unforgettable read.

Just signed up for NaNoWriMo!

Perhaps out of the pure shock that I have a creative writing degree and did not know this existed, I have joined in an attempt to redeem the title of “writer”.

Little apprehensive…50,000 words seems optimistic. Maybe 10,000 would be more realistic but c’est la vie.

My current novel idea is a children’s novel which puts an added dread to the word count…

To put it into perspective, Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone has a word count of 76944 apparently. I don’t quite know if that alters my feelings whatsoever.

But currently being 7 months pregnant, I have no excuse not to give it go.

What is there to lose eh?

Apart from self confidence, assurance and respect 🙂

Editing your own writing

I have just looked over a novel I have been working on (mentally. Physically there were only one and half chapters =\) and was quite mortified.

The amount of typo’s were unreal.

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Obviously I had looked over it before a couple of times. I even submitted a chapter as sample work. I’m not one to often make typo’s (at least I thought) but this has made me realise…

Edit after you write!! This sounds obvious, but I mean more specifically, look over your work after time has passed! When it is fresh in your mind, you gloss over bits or it all makes perfect sense. But revisiting it after a few months really gives you a different and more realistic perspective!

My new focus – write all the chapters. Leave it. Edit. Leave it again. Double edit.